Casio's Exilim EX-H15 superzoom packs some impressive specs into a fairly compact package, including a 14.1-megapixel sensor, 10x optical zoom lens and lengthy battery life. But is it as good in practice as it sounds on paper? It's available now for around £180.
Va va zoom
The camera's main selling point is its lengthy 10x zoom, which extends out from the body when you use it. The lens also provides the equivalent angle (in 35mm terms) of 24mm at the wide end, making the EX-H15 a highly versatile camera that can be used effectively in a number of photographic situations.
A 14.1-megapixel sensor backs up the lens. It's capable of capturing 4:3 frames of up to 4,320x3,240 pixels, which is not too shabby. Other impressive specs include a high-resolution, 460,000-pixel, 3-inch LCD screen; 720p video-capture capability; and a battery life of up to 1,000 shots.
It's a shame that there's no HDMI output and that the video-recording time is limited to 29 minutes, but these points shouldn't bother anyone for whom making movies is a secondary concern.
The EX-H15 is on the large side for a compact camera, but it's well built and feels quite robust. Its size and serious-looking lens housing lend the camera a somewhat masculine feel -- unless you opt for the pink version. Silver, black and brown versions are also available.
The EX-H15 doesn't offer touchscreen controls but there aren't too many buttons to deal with either. As with many modern cameras, the zoom rocker surrounds the shutter-release button. Most of the camera's features are accessed via a simple on-screen menu and five-way pad system.
There is one annoying design foible, though. We found ourselves accidentally pressing the 'auto' button on more than one occasion during our tests. This button switches the camera between two types of automatic mode: a standard auto mode and a premium auto mode. The latter can recognise and adjust for a range of different subjects and situations, potentially helping to produce better shots, but it takes longer to process each frame and drains the battery more quickly. As such, it's handy to have a dedicated switch to turn it off when required. Unfortunately, the button happens to be placed right where your left hand naturally grips the camera, which isn't ideal.
That aside, the EX-H15 is an enjoyable and easy camera to use and we were very happy with how it fared in our tests. It performs quickly, and colours are rich and vivid without coming on too strong. Edges are crisp and there's oodles of detail in every frame.
Casio's sensor-shift image-stabilisation mechanism helps to limit blur caused by wobbling hands, and it's very effective at keeping images looking sharp, even at the longer end of the zoom. You'll see some barrelling around the edges of images when you're taking wide-angle shots, but no more than you might expect from this type of lens. Chromatic aberration is well within acceptable limits too, and the camera's low-light performance is excellent.
If we have one criticism, it's that the EX-H15 sometimes smoothes images over too much. This is particularly evident when taking photos of people in the premium auto mode, as skin tones can look over-processed. More natural portraits can be achieved in the standard auto mode. The camera provides plenty of opportunities to experiment with art effects and manual settings too.
The Casio Exilim EX-H15 is well worth considering if you're after a compact camera with a long zoom range. It offers a great balance between performance and convenience, at a bearable price.
Edited by Charles Kloet